PREVIEW: Women’s basketball begins final road trip at Oakland

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Women’s basketball travels to Oakland this weekend. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Austin Bechtold, Contributor

ROCHESTER, Mich.– After concluding their final homestand with a 71-64 loss at the hands of Youngstown State, the Robert Morris women’s basketball team hits the road for their final scheduled road trip of the 2020-21 season before the 2021 Horizon League Tournament. The Colonials (3-9, 3-9 Horizon) travel to Oakland (8-9, 8-6) for two mid-day matchups in Rochester, Michigan. This marks the first-ever meeting between the two programs with game one beginning at 3 p.m. followed by a Saturday tip-off at 1 p.m.

Recapping RMU

RMU has won three of their last four games after finishing off their home slate by sweeping Wright State and splitting with the Penguins last weekend. After an 0-8 start to the season, being swept by Northern Kentucky (6-5, 6-0), Milwaukee (15-3, 12-2), and Wright State (11-5, 11-3) on the road and IUPUI (9-4, 7-3) to tip-off the new year on January 1-2. The losses were hard for the Colonials to swallow, but the road to their first win was not easy as these four opponents currently make up the top four teams in the Horizon League standings and a 36-8 conference record.

The victories over the Raiders were a major stepping stone for the program, taking down a Wright State team with only one conference loss at the time, tripling the team’s previous total.

YSU (5-4, 6-4) presented a challenge down low for Robert Morris that was neutralized in game one but exploited in the second matchup. After outrebounding the Penguins 46-37 on Friday, RMU was crushed on the boards 44-27, lead by 11 from Washington, Pa native Mary Dunn.

Overall, the homestand was a successful one for the Colonials with Dahomée Forgues leading the way with 12 points on Friday and Esther Castedo with 15 the next day. The Colonials held an 11 point lead in Saturday’s battle, but Dunn took over and dominated in the post all second half.

Scouting Oakland

The Golden Grizzlies were on a roll in the middle of the season, winning five of six games before dropping two straight at Cleveland State. Game one was a narrow 75-70 defeat at the hands of the Vikings, with game two a runaway victory for CSU 68-53.

Oakland has had a solid season in 2020-21, earning all eight of their victories against conference opponents. The team has a 4-3 home record and will look to add to their win total against RMU with Northern Kentucky on the schedule left to play at the Athletics Center O’rena on Feburay 19-20.

The Golden Grizzlies have given up more points than they have scored on average in 2020-21, scoring 66.4 while giving up 70.9. The team shoots 39.1-percent from the field and, like the Colonials, are being outrebounded by their opponents (6.0).

Players to Watch

Esther Castedo (RMU) – Castedo played the best of any Colonial in game two against the Penguins, scoring 15 points and playing strong perimeter defense as well. She will need to bring her senior leadership and solid ballhandling to the table for RMU to continue its latest success. Castedo should be a noticeable factor on both ends of the floor.

Sol Castro (RMU) – Despite being the center of attention by opposing defenses over the past few games, Castro has done well adjusting to new concepts and defensive rebounding. She has excelled at times against tough competition, still needing to tighten up on defense in key moments but recording an impressive three double-doubles in her last four games. Castro leads the team in points (9.5) and rebounds (5.8) per-game in their first Horizon League season.

Kahlaijah Dean (OAK) – Dean has had a nice year for Oakland, leading the team with 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists-per-game in 2020-21. The junior guard from Bakersfield, California takes a ton of shots and is not afraid to attack the hoop. The Colonials will have to limit Dean’s production and control of the offense as she will be the Golden Grizzlies’ main threat as Oakland looks to move to 9-9.

Alona Blackwell (OAK) – Another potent scoring threat, Blackwell is second on the team with 11.6 points-per-game and can also step back beyond the arc and knock down the three. The 5’10’’ sophomore guard averages nearly the same amount of minutes as Dean, and will need to be a strong complementary asset to the Golden Grizzlies efforts on both ends of the floor to slow down this hot Colonials team.

Prediction

After dropping their last game to YSU following three straight victories, RMU will bounce back this weekend to prove they are for real. Game one will be close in the first half, but after trailing by two at the break, Robert Morris battles back for an eight-point victory in game one. The rematch on Saturday will be just as narrow of a margin, but the Colonials seal a four-point win in the final minute.